Texas Holdem Pairs

Flopping a Pair

When one of the three cards on the flop matches one of the poker cards in your hand, you have flopped a pair. Example is if you hold A9 and the flop is K94. You have a pair of 9s. We call that the second pair. Note that if the flop had been 443 you'd also have a pair of 4s, but every other active hand has at least a pair of 4s also. When we say you have flopped a pair, we are not referring to situations where the pair is on the board. Some pairs are better than others.

Top Pair

"Top pair" is when one of your cards matches the highest card on the board. If the flop is Q94 then any player who holds a Queen has the top pair. Your kicker (your unpaired card) matters in this case. For example if you have Q2 then any other player holding a Queen has a better hand than you.

When we are ascertaining a hand, we usually think in terms of the top pair being the likely best hand on the flop. There are exceptions to it but it is good starting point. It is because of the increased similarity of flopping the top pair that higher ranking cards are better to play poker than lower ranking cards. The following table shall illustrate this:

CHANCES OF FLOPPING THE TOP PAIR

If you hold an unpaired Percent of the time it will be
the highest card on the flop
Ace
16.6%
King
13.9%
Queen
11.3%
Jack
9.1%
Ten
7.1%
9
5.4%
8
3.9%
7
2.6%
6
1.6%
5
0.8%
4
0.3%
3
0.1%
2
0.0%

The smaller your cards are, not are they less likely to flop the top pair but when they do flop the top pair they are more likely vulnerable. The below table illustrate this

CHANCES OF AN OVERCARD HITTING THE TURN OR RIVER AFTER A FLOP OF THE TOP PAIR

Top pair Percent of the time an
Holding a draw overcard falls on the turn or river


Top pair Holding a Percent of the time an overcard falls on the turn or river
Ace
00%
King
17%
Queen
32%
Jack
45%
Ten
57%
9
68%
8
77%
7
84%
6
90%
5
95%
4
98%
3
100%

Better holdem poker strategy is If you are holding JT and the flop is J73 then you have the top pair. You have paired the highest card on the board, and the only way anyone could have a higher pair is if they hold pocket Aces, Kings or Queens. Note that 45 percent of the time at least one of the next two cards will be an Ace, King or Queen which will certainly give another player a higher pair. These middle ranked top pairs almost always need to be played very aggressively so that the players holding an overcard folds. However, there are times where too much texas aggression can backfire.

Usually the top pair is a good hand, but this hand is not as good as it might seem. If you are first to act and bet, then what hands that you can beat might call? Not many actually. If someone has QJor KJ or AJ, then you are beat. They also have a top pair but with a better kicker. You would have a J9 but hands with kicker smaller than the nine aren't likely to have been played by most poker players. Kickers count and in some cases they count a lot.

If you bet you might get calls from players with hands like 78 or A3. You might get calls from players with hands KQ or similar hands. Because you don't want to give players with hands like those a free chance to get a card on the turn that will beat you, you will want to bet this hand with this flop. If you get called, do not be satisfied, and if you get raised, you might fall into trouble. You will be more comfortable with that flop if you are in a late position and everyone else checked to you. You might still be check-raising but you can normally be certain that you have the best hand. This is an example of another reason that you will want to be more selective in the hands you play when you are in an early position than when you are in a last position.

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